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Here's what the Google Pixel 6 needs to do to beat the iPhone 13

Google Pixel 6 Pro
(Image credit: OnLeaks)

We’re coming up on the big fall phone releases, which basically means it’s almost iPhone 13 time. But in Android land, that also means we’re due for Google’s next round of Pixel phones and that’s always exciting. Whatever your preference, the September-October timeframe is always fun.

While neither phone has been announced yet, that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate on how they’ll stack up. More importantly, we can speak hypothetically about what Google needs to do to match Apple, even though we all know that the Pixel sales won’t come close to matching the iPhone’s. 

The Google Pixel 6 needs to do the following five things to succeed, even if the sales aren’t all that great. Google’s hardware hasn’t always been up to the task, but its software game has remained strong for years. Let’s hope the Pixel 6 does it all well.

Camera

Google has held the Android photography crown for years, despite challenges from Samsung and Huawei. However, on the other side of the aisle, Apple does an incredible job with the iPhone’s photography capabilities. Honestly, you’d be hard pressed to find many differences between photos from an iPhone and a Pixel. It's one reason why both companies' devices are on our list of the best camera phones

Google Pixel measure heart rate and breathing

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

But Google can’t rest on its laurels. Apple is continually pushing the computational photography envelope while packing the iPhone with powerful camera hardware. Though we’re going off of leaks right now, the iPhone 13 looks like it’ll be a photography powerhouse, especially the Pro models.

Word has it that Google is upping the camera hardware game for the Pixel 6, especially with the so-called Pixel 6 Pro. The company held out for years saying that one lens was plenty, then caved and added a second camera on the Pixel 4/4 XL and Google Pixel 5. Nowadays, people expect an ultrawide and many prefer to have a dedicated telephoto lens. Even though Google’s Super Zoom technology is excellent, having the hardware chops to back it up doesn’t hurt.

Rest assured, Apple is going to be bringing its best on the iPhone 13’s cameras.

Display

While neither the iPhone 12 nor the Pixel 5 have bad displays, neither are as amazing as what you’ll find on the Samsung Galaxy S21 series from Samsung or the OnePlus 9 Pro. We can all argue about color calibrations and accuracy, but at the end of the day, it’s a given that Google and Apple will both source excellent panels.

iPhone 12 Pro Max review

(Image credit: Future)

Where we want the Pixel 6 to improve upon its predecessor is by offering at least 120Hz for the refresh rate. Any less and it stands to fall behind Apple, which we strongly believe will have a 120Hz refresh rate on at least the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max.

If the rumors about Apple keeping the iPhone 13 and 13 mini on 60Hz are true, Google could undercut those two phones with the base model Pixel 6. The smaller device is still rumored to have 120Hz, so if Google could keep the price below the $999 mark we expect the iPhone 13 Pro to start at, that’d be a win.

Battery life

One of Google’s greatest struggles with the Pixel brand is battery life. Even something as recent at 2019’s Pixel 4 series had horrendous battery life, and though the Pixel 5 improved things a bit, Google still has a long way to go.

iPhone 12 Pro Max review MagSafe

(Image credit: Future)

That’s not to say that the iPhone 12 was a battery life champ, either — quite the opposite, in fact. That said, we know that Apple noticed this downside in the iPhone 12’s design and you can bet that it made addressing that weakness a priority for the iPhone 13. Besides some optimizations in the software and the hardware that it controls, we hear that Apple is planning to shove bigger batteries in the iPhone 13 models.

Google has a lot of catching up to do to match the devices on the best phone battery life list, but we’re hoping against hope that the Pixel 6 will buck the poor Pixel battery life trend. While the jury is still out on the iPhone 13’s battery life, we hope Google has made this facet a priority for the Pixel 6. Subpar battery life just doesn’t cut anymore.

Performance

This is a lost cause before it even started, but hear me out. Apple is going to crush the Pixel 6 in terms of performance, since the A15 Bionic system-on-chip is looking to be even better than its A14 predecessor, as you’d expect. Even if Google used the Snapdragon 888 like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and OnePlus 9 Pro do, the Pixel 6 would nonetheless lag behind the iPhone 13 in benchmarks.

However, rumors suggest that Google is creating its own silicon in partnership with Samsung. Codenamed Whitechapel, Google’s own chip would be somewhat analogous to Apple’s Bionic chips. In practice, however, some insiders think that Whitechapel won’t be even able to match the Snapdragon 888 in terms of raw power.

iPhone 12 Pro review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

That means that the Pixel 6, if these rumors are true, may not even match some of the best Android phones available right now. Hardware isn’t the whole story, though, and Google has the ability to make Android work incredibly well on Whitechapel. We’ll just have to see, but we’re hoping the Pixel 6 puts up more of a fight against the iPhone 13 than the Pixel 5 did against the iPhone 12.

Software support

One major advantage to buying an iPhone is how long it’ll be supported. Since Apple controls much of the hardware, it can decide when to stop sending out iOS updates. This is usually when the software capabilities grow beyond what the hardware is capable of. 

Android phones are getting better with support, but there’s still a long way to go. We want the Pixel 6 to have longer software support, especially if Google controls the silicon. Oftentimes, it’s Qualcomm that gets in the way of a phone manufacturer supporting its devices for longer. If Google skips Qualcomm, it could theoretically support the Pixel 6 for four years or longer.

Pixel 6 and iPhone 13 outlook

Google Pixel 6 3d model

(Image credit: Concept Creator)

For phone nerds like you and me, this fall is going to be one heck of a battle between Apple and Google — that’s not even to mention Samsung’s new foldables. We expect Google and Apple to continue to duke it out for the best camera experience.

And with the sweeping changes coming in Android 12, we think the software experiences are going to be better than ever. You can bet that iOS 15 is going to continue iOS 14’s incredibly good legacy. 

Will the Pixel 6 sell in the same numbers as the iPhone 13? No. But, the Pixel line is hugely important to Android as a whole and we want it to succeed relative to its market scale. We’ll just have to see how things turn out, but if Google nails most or all of the things listed above, then we think the Pixel 6 will be a comparative success.